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Two years later the life of the Shah was attempted by
four Babis who posed as petitioners. He was wounded
in the thigh, and the report was spread of his death. The
punishment inflicted on the conspirators was barbarous.
At first ten prisoners were executed. In the case of two,
lighted candles were stuck into them, and after suffering
this torture, they were hacked asunder with a hatchet.
A reign of terror then ensued, and the Chief Minister, to
avoid concentrating on himself the vengeance of the Babis,
distributed the prisoners among the officers of the state,1
who did them to death.
The Babis, including their famous poetess, the Kurrat-
ul-Ayn, or " Coolness of the Eyes," displayed such bravery
that they gained sympathy not only among their fellow-
countrymen, but also among the Europeans resident in
Teheran, and probably their heroic behaviour gained many
converts to the new religion. - .,
Foundation of the Russian Naval Station at Ashurada^
1840.—The peculiarity of the southern coast of the Caspian
littoral consists in salt lagoons formed by narrow spits of
land. That of Enzeli, the''port of Resht, has already been
referred to, and at Astrabad there is another. In this
latter case the long narrow promontory runs out for thirty
miles from the western coast and terminates in three small
islands, the most easterly of which is close to the eastern
coast of the Caspian Sea. In 1836 the Persian Govern-
ment had applied to the Tsar for naval assistance against
Turkoman pirates, who raided the coasts of Mazanderan
with impunity. This was granted, and the Russians,
realizing the advantage of founding a permanent naval
station in the south-east corner of the Caspian, occupied
the island of Ashurada2 about the year 1840. The
Government of the Shah remonstrated against this seizure
of Persian soil, but without success. The Russian
Minister, without denying the validity of the Persian
claim to the island, pointed out that pirates could be held
1  The Shah's French doctor excused himself from hacking a Babi to pieces by saying
that he killed too many men professionally to increase the number by homicide !
2  In 1893 I anchored off the island, and I was surprised at its smallness, which is
such that during a storm spray sweeps right across it.    It is notoriously unhealthy, and
the life of the officials posted on it must be trying in the extreme.